Site upgrade for SuttaCentral

We just launched the new edition of SuttaCentral:

http://suttacentral.net/

This is the first major redesign since we relaunched last year. We’re very proud of the new features. It’s been designed to be mobile-friendly from ground up, to be at once more powerful, and also more minimal.

The main changes:

  • The top menu now displays all of the entries for the relevant category at once, so you can get anywhere from anywhere.
  • Each text page (i.e. the actual suttas) has a sidebar. The various tools, navigation and so on is in the sidebar, and the page itself is completely clean.
  • Pali to Spanish lookup, to complement our Pali to English. We can add any number of languages to this, all we need is a Pali to Whatever dictionary in some kind of structured format. If you’ve gt anything like that, let us know.
  • Home page redesign, with a “Quote of the Day” and new introduction.
  • Many minor corrections, such as sorting out the numbering of several Khuddaka texts (including the Dhammapada), and a multitude of typos and the like.
  • Fully responsive design. The previous design was okay on mobiles, but the new site should adapt well for any screen. We’ve included a whole range of tweaks to optimize the experience on mobiles.

There will, of course, be some bugs, so please let us know if you find any: http://suttacentral.userecho.com/

Enjoy!

18 thoughts on “Site upgrade for SuttaCentral

    • That’s great, thanks for letting us know. It’s probably because we started using Cloud Flare, which serves up web pages via a distributed network of servers worldwide (and makes it faster, too!). Please let us know if there’s any further problems.

  1. Are there any plans to link the Sinhala translations (metta.lk is the only place I know with online Sinhala translations) as well?

    Also, perhaps there could be a mechanism to easily use the old numbering system as well. For example, if I want SN 3.6, I know exactly what URL to type into the browser, but if I want SN IV 6, then I need to go looking through the index until I get to SN IV – just an idea.

    • Hi Uttara,

      Regarding the Sinhala translations, this has been on our to-do list for some time. In fact I will be contacting our Sinhala friends at hSenid today to discuss this. We have done considerable research on the different translations that are available, and it seems that the ones on metta.lk are, on the whole, the best. But they are not in Unicode, and they need to be tidied up and proofread before they are ready for SuttaCentral.

      Regarding the searching, this is a good point, and one which we have discussed. Now, taking the example you gave, if I plug “sn iv 6” into the search, I in fact get good results: the first two results are suttas on that page. Victory!

      However we are not always so lucky. If I search, as a random example, “mn iii 44” I don’t get any results. That’s because that page number falls in the middle of a sutta, so it’s not listed in the entry for that sutta. Currently your only solution is to go backwards until you find the vol/page reference for the previous sutta—in this case, MN 113, which has the Vol/Page reference “MN iii 37”. Now, if I go to MN 113 and activate the “Textual Information” button, I can see the Vol/Page numbers down the side, and can find the relevant section. So the information is there, but it’s not being used in the most effective way possible.

      As you suggest, we should be able to go to the number straight away, which we could do in one of two ways: by extracting the Vol/page number automatically from the text and including it in the database for the search; or by inferring the vol/page numbers, as we did in the example. We are planning a complete rewrite of the search engine at some point point, and hopefully this will be one of the features we can include.

  2. That’s good to hear Bhante! Are there any other Sinhala translations available online apart from metta.lk?

  3. Very nice, very clean and straightforward. Well done.🙂

    If I may make one tiny tiny suggestion… There are several Chinese versions of the Samyuktagama and the Ekottarikagama, which are labelled 1st, 2nd, etc. This may be a little confusing because it isn’t clear which texts these indicate. My suggestion would be to change “1st”, “2nd”, etc., to “T 99”, “T 100”, etc. It may take one or two more characters, but it might be clearer.

    • Hi LLT,

      Yes, it’s not entirely satisfactory, is it? What your suggesting is obviously sensible, and perhaps it is the way to go. But throughout SuttaCentral, we try to present texts as far as possible in semantic forms. When we say SA2, it is clear there is a semantic connection with SA, or SA3. And they are, indeed, very similar texts. On the other hand, using the T numbers is purely a text-based categorization. It makes sense in terms of the Taisho edition, but is meaningless in terms of the texts themselves. So the question is whether it is better to sacrifice a little semantic consistency for the sake of user familiarity? Or will doing so make things even more complicated?

      While you’re here, may I ask a question? For our Chinese texts we use typohraphy derived from the traditional form of Chinese texts, which assign each character a space in a more or less square grid (eg http://localhost:8800/zh/zh-mi-bu-vb-pj4). However one user has commented that they find this less easy to read than the normal modern style, with each character next to each other. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  4. Hmm… I really can’t make any calls about what is the right compromise on the abbreviation issue. Maybe the notation (SA 1st) is needed to keep things consistent, and you are right that the Taisho numbers are just one way after all.

    For the issue of Chinese typography, I’m happy to help if I can. It is true that the characters are traditionally square and naturally form some sort of grid. However, traditional printing did not quite use a grid of squares. Within each line, the characters would typically go one after the other with very little spacing (as in western printing), but then the lines would have more spacing between them (also like western printing). You can see some old and new printing examples by following the link below. Note: the “modern” examples shown here intentionally try to mimic the old “block print” look:

    http://www.lapislazulitexts.com/fs/chinese_printing/

    By keeping the letter spacing at the default value, making the line height somewhere between 1.5 and 2, and using all full-width characters, you could probably get the same general visual effect as the old block prints (see: “web.png”).

    • Thanks for that, you’re probably right. One of the changes I made in the CBETA texts was to introduce the proper full-width Chinese punctuation, whereas CBETA just uses the default Western forms. That means that even if the space is reduced, the text will remain somewhat more orderly and grid-like.

  5. Bhante, thank you for the links to the Sinhala translations. From my own biased POV, unfortunately the Buddha Jayanti translation is written in rather old fashioned Sinhala which is certainly not unreadable, but a little tiring. On the other hand, the second translation is written is an almost novel-like language (based on the one sutta that is available for preview) which seems overly simplistic. Personally for me I’d prefer the Buddha Jayanti version from the two, but a middle ground between the two would be optimal; hopefully one day we’ll be able to have a translation that is readable without sacrificing depth and precision.

    • Thanks, that’s an interesting point of comparison. In Bible studies, there are whole schools of translations, with different tendencies to literalism or fluency. Since no translation can hope to fully capture the original, perhaps the best we can hope for is one that suits the needs of the person reading it the best.

  6. Right, the full-width forms are nice and retain the grid-like alignments well. I would like to emphasize, though, that traditionally lines had extra space between them, but the characters within a line had very little spacing between them. So although the characters were naturally squarish and could be fit into a grid, the actual layout and spacing of the characters was not traditionally equidistant as in a grid (see: http://lapislazulitexts.com/fs/chinese_printing/qing_dynasty_lines.jpeg).

  7. Very nice! The eyes are naturally drawn from character to character, and line to line. The text with the current settings is much easier to read.🙂

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